March 21, 2009

Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks: Review

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I first heard of the Plague Village, Eyam in England, on a Secrets of the Dead episode on PBS. Scientists were studying the genes of plague survivor descendants in hopes of finding a mutated gene that not only made humans immune to the Plague but also AIDS. Their story peaked my interest. When I read about Year of Wonders, I knew I had to read it.

Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks is a fictionalized account of that village. She mixes fact, folklore and fiction into a fascinating read. The Plague arrives in the village in the disguise of a flea infested bolt of cloth. The first victim to succumb to the disease is the tailor and for some time it seems that he might be the only one. Then it spreads to the surrounding houses.

One Sunday, the rector Michael Mompellion makes a startling announcement. If the villagers pledge to remain isolated inside the village, the Earl from the next town will supply them with goods for as long as the plague rages. Reluctantly they agree, with the exception of the local lord who high-tails it out of there.

Anna, a miner's widow, losses her children to the Plague early on. Though her loss seems inconceivable it only gets worse as she watches her friends and neighbours lose their battle with the disease. With the help of the rector's wife, Elinor, Anna uses all the resources she has to help the ill and dying, in hopes of saving some. Slowly the villagers also lose their grip on reality and fall into madness, witchcraft and religious furvor. When the seige is over, Anna finds her life irrevocably changed.

I've been lucky to read some great books lately. Year of Wonders didn't disappoint. I read this for Dewey's Reading Challenge and she felt the same as myself about it. She just loved it. I especially liked what she says here: "I wanted to read it again as soon as I finished, because I missed my new pals." Although I think the ending was rather bizarre and implausible (as did some of Dewey's commenters) that didn't detract from the rest of the story. I flew through it in a couple of days; it was just too engrossing!

Higly, highly recommended!

Now as part of Jill @ Fizzy Thoughts' Mini-Challenge here is my Eyam list of facts:

*In 1665, there were 350 people living in Eyam; by the end of 1666, there were 83.

*The current population (2001) is 926.

*Elizabeth Hancock buried a husband and 6 children but never fell ill.

*George Viccars was a tailor and the first victim of the Plague in Eyam.

*The village of Eyam holds a remembrance service the last Sunday of August every year, known as Plague Sunday.

*The Plague is spread via infected fleas.


15 comments :

  1. I really liked this book. One of these days I am going to read her other books!

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  2. I didn't know it was based on fact! Now I'm definitely reading this one. Off to add it to the Paperspine queue...

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  3. I was probably one of the commenters who mentioned the end of this book! I loved all of it, except for the really, really odd ending! It is amazing to think that it was based on a true story.

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  4. I gave you a little award today at A Novel Menagerie. Enjoy.

    http://anovelmenagerie.com/ghost/2009/03/21/the-sunday-salon-giveaways/

    Sheri

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  5. wow...i've never heard about the book or the pbs episode. sounds like an interesting read, though maybe a bit of a downer? i wonder if i could use it in the classroom...it's worth investigating! thanks.

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  6. That sounds very fascinating. What a horrible time to have to live through.

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  7. I'm reading this one for Dewey's Challenge too. I've only heard wonderful things about it. I'm glad you agree.

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  8. Kailana- Now I want to read March.

    softdrink- Amazing huh?

    Marg- I know! It completely threw me. I thought I was reading a different book.

    Sheri- Thanks!

    booklineandsinker- Yeah, a book about the plague isn't going to be happy but it was so interesting.

    Bermuda- No antibiotics then.

    Kristy- I hope you like it.

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  9. This sounds like a wonderful read. I still haven't read any Geraldine Brooks, but I have March on my list for the challenge.

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  11. Wonderful review! This book has been on my TBR ever since it came out.

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  12. I really enjoyed this book, except for that ridiculously implausible ending. In fact, now that I think of it, I really must get hold of some more books set in the seventeenth century. I've read hardly anything about that era.

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  13. Add me to the list of people who loved this book except for the ending. I found the true story fascinating and the numbers are shocking. Can you imagine your community losing that many of its members?

    I love March. Hopefully I will get to People of the Book soon.

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  14. This is a favorite of mine. I'd like to see that tv program!

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  15. Wow, I've never heard of this book but it sounds incredibly interesting. I also liked Geraldine Brooks' People of the Book. I'll have to add this one to the TBR list!

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